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Admissions & Financial Aid: Become a Rabbi

Thank you for your interest in the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College. The path of the rabbi is an ongoing personal journey as much as a career.

At the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College, we are looking for students who have an unquenchable thirst to learn from the wisdom of Jewish tradition, a drive to fashion an authentic personal relationship to Judaism, a passion to engage with people, practices, and ideas from across the Jewish spectrum, and a commitment to serve the Jewish people.

Rabbi Ayalon Eliach, Rab`18 talks about how he came to be a part of the Hebrew College community and what halakhah means to him.


Is Hebrew College Right for You?

This section provides information about the application process and how to prepare for the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College.

What We Ask of Ourselves and of Each Other:

Guiding Principles for Admission and Ordination at Hebrew College

Introduction

Reimagining Jewish learning and leadership for an interconnected world – making our lives more meaningful, our communities more vibrant, and our world more whole.
— Hebrew College Mission Statement

At Hebrew College, we view rabbis and cantors as both learners and leaders. We are committed to a vision of Jewish spiritual leadership that is rooted in a life of Torah, and to learning that is animated by a sense of responsibility to the world.

Throughout their years of study in our program, our students learn to ground themselves in the faithful creativity of the beit midrash, to deepen their relationship with the Divine, and to walk in the ways of Torah, as they prepare for a life of service to the Jewish people.

We expect our students to take upon themselves the following commitments as they walk this path. We ask the same of ourselves as teachers, as we too are lifelong learners and leaders.

שְׁמַע
To Listen

Our relationships — with Torah, with each other, and with God — begin with listening. Our beit midrash is where we expect students to develop their capacity to listen – to the voices on the pages of our sacred texts, to the voices of the people around the table, and to the eternal within and between us. This process of learning to listen deeply and well is essential to our understanding of what it means to become a responsible Jewish spiritual and communal leader.

Our commitment to listening to the voices on the pages of our sacred texts flows from an abiding awareness that we are blessed to stand within a vast, multi-vocal interpretive tradition that has been carried on across generations for millennia. We expect our students to become full, active, and passionate participants in this conversation, making decisions about their own lives in serious and sustained dialogue with our inherited tradition.

Our commitment to listening to one another across difference flows from our conviction that every human soul is a unique reflection of the divine image. This foundation gives rise to another core value of our beit midrash — the belief that every human being has something meaningful to contribute. We seek to elicit the contributions of everyone in the room — not only as an act of hospitality, but because each person’s voice is needed for the fullness of the community and of Torah to emerge.

These commitments also lead to our embrace of mahloket le-shem shamayim — the encounter with differing and even challenging perspectives, for the sake of heaven. We expect each other to listen with an open heart, to assume good intentions, to remember that the views we reject may include wisdom we need. We strive to address interpersonal conflict respectfully and responsibly, and to make these encounters locations for personal and communal growth.

בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ
Wholeheartedness

We see the cultivation of middot as essential to walking in the ways of Torah. These personal qualities are fundamental to building the capacity for ethical and skillful leadership. It is incumbent upon each of us to strive to develop them be-khol halev — in all domains of one’s life, and over the course of a lifetime.

These middot include:

הִתְחַיְּבוּת/ Obligation
חֶשְׁבּוֹן נֶפֶשׁ/ Self-awareness and Accountability
יֹשֶׁר/ Honesty and Integrity
כָּבוֹד/ Honor
נְדִיבוּת לֵב/ Generosity
סַקְרָנוּת/ Curiosity
עֲנָוָה/ Humility
רַחֲמִים/ Compassion

ְּבְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּרֶךְ
In Your Home and On Your Way

We see the performance of mitzvot as another essential expression of walking in the ways of Torah. Mitzvot are the embodied actions through which we translate Torah’s words into our own lives.

Through the study of sifrei kodesh (our sacred Jewish texts), the creation of a Jewish home, and engagement in Jewish communal life, our students are expected to build a meaningful practice of mitzvot. We welcome diverse expressions of this commitment and understand that the specific contours of personal practice will look different for each student, depending on their own relationship with our tradition and their search for the transcendent within it.

The process of forming a life shaped by mitzvot is an ongoing endeavor. We expect our students to pursue a life of mitzvot that finds expression both in the public sphere and in their own homes — the more intimate, inhabited spaces that define and inscribe our deepest social, cultural, and religious commitments.

These mitzvot include:

הַכְנָסַת אוֹרְחִים/ Welcoming Guests
גְּמִילוּת חֲסָדִים/ Acts of Lovingkindness
כַּשְׁרוּת/ Kashrutּ
צֶדֶק/ Justice
שַׁבָּת וְיוֹם טֹוב/ Shabbat and Holidays
תַּלְמוּד תּוֹרָה/ Torah Study
תְּפִלָּה/ Prayer
תְּשׁוּבָה/ Repentance

This list is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather to offer concrete examples of what we mean by forming a life shaped by mitzvot. Students in our program will regularly be expected to articulate and reflect on these and other aspects of their personal practice with teachers, mentors, and peers. As faculty members, we will support and participate in this process both inside and outside of the classroom, including by modeling honest and reflective conversation with students about how our own lives of mitzvot are unfolding.

בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ
Communal Responsibility

Walking in the ways of Torah also calls us to acts of communal responsibility, outside the bounds of our own homes, within the gates of our cities and beyond.

We expect our students to cultivate a particular sense of responsibility to and for the Jewish people. As an expression of this commitment, we expect our students to spend a year of study in Israel, and to cultivate a connection to Israel that is rooted in a love of the Jewish people, a deep understanding of Jewish history and contemporary Israeli society, and a commitment to democracy, pluralism, and human rights.

We expect our students to cultivate a sense of responsibility to and for the dignity and wellbeing of all human beings as reflections of the divine image.

As spiritual leaders in a time of environmental crisis, we expect our students to cultivate a sense of reverence for all of God’s creation and a sense of responsibility for the future of our planet.

ְלְמַעַן תִּזְכְּרוּ
Growth and Accountability

Walking in the ways of Torah requires a lifelong process of learning and growth. As a school, we are committed to ongoing reflection upon and refinement of our educational efforts. We will continually seek to strengthen structures of support and accountability, as we build a beloved and diverse community and prepare our students for a life of leadership and sacred service.

The Rabbinical School of Hebrew College strives to bring together a richly diverse group of students who are prepared to traverse a rigorous path of rabbinic training.

Jewish Engagement and Identity

As a pluralistic school, we do not have prescriptions for how you should live as a Jew. Rather, we support each other in a search for a meaningful and authentic engagement with Jewish tradition. (See “What We Ask of Ourselves and of Each Other: Guiding Principles for Admission and Ordination at Hebrew College.”)

Applicants must be Jewish by birth as recognized by at least one major rabbinic body, or by a conversion process that is recognized by at least one major rabbinic body. Hebrew College admits qualified students without regard to age, sex, disability, race, color, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity/orientation, genetic information, military or veteran status.

Academic

Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and a competitive GPA. We do not require applicants to have taken the GRE.

Hebrew

At Hebrew College, we seek the wisdom that emerges when we deeply engage sacred Jewish sources in the original text. Your authentic interaction with the text demands significant study of the Hebrew language to enable you to discover the layers of wisdom within. Generally, applicants must have completed at least two years of college-level Hebrew to start Mekorot, our preparatory-year program, and three years to enter Shanah Aleph (Year 1).

Preparation and Class Placement

Rabbinical school should not be the beginning of your Jewish learning but a continuation. The time before rabbinical school is an opportunity to deepen your Jewish knowledge and practice. It is also a critical time for working on your command of Hebrew, making sure you have the fundamentals and are at a level to start rabbinical school.

We have developed two guides to help you prepare for this journey. The first offers suggestions for reading and growth in core areas of Jewish knowledge and identity. The second provides specific instructions for ensuring your knowledge of Hebrew is at the appropriate level to enter rabbinical school in either Mekorot, the preparatory year program, or Shanah Aleph (Year 1).

Admissions TimelineDate
Priority application due dateJanuary 15
Interview datesMid-January to late March
Financial aid application and FAFSA due dateFebruary 1
Admissions decisionsWithin two weeks of interview
Financial aid award dateMid-April
Accepted student response due dateMay 1

If you need an application deadline extension, please contact Rabbi Gita Karasov, Director of Admissions & Student Life for the Rabbinical School. We are able to make accommodations on an individual basis, though financial-aid awards may be more limited for late applications.

Application Process

The first step of the application process is to assess whether the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College is the right place for you. We highly recommend you be in touch with Rabbi Gita Karasov to begin this process and plan a campus visit.

Once you have decided to apply, you will need to complete an application by January 15. A full application includes the following:

  1. Online application form
  2. Typewritten essays I and II (see below for details)
  3. A completed Hebrew placement exam. Please contact Rabbi Gita Karasov to request a copy of the exam.
  4. A completed text skills assessment. Please contact Rabbi Gita Karasov to request a copy of the exam.
  5. Resume
  6. Official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate studies from accredited academic institutions. Please have official copies of transcripts forwarded directly from the issuing institution. Electronic copies should be sent to admissionsoffice@hebrewcollege.edu and hard copies to the Office of Admissions, Hebrew College, 1860 Washington Street, Newton, MA 02466.
  7. An official score report from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) for all foreign students whose native language is not English and who have not received a degree from an accredited United States college or university.
  8. Three or four letters of reference. Please ask at least one rabbi write on your behalf. To submit a letter of reference electronically, please send this online form to the people writing on your behalf. A printable form may also be downloaded here, and mailed to the Rabbinical School Office of Admissions.
  9. A non-refundable application fee of $60 paid by credit card as part of the online application.

Applicants are given access to an online portal after completing the online application form and will upload items 2-5 to the portal.

Qualified applicants are invited to campus for an interview. During your visit, you will meet with a committee of faculty and alumni, and visit classes. Interviews take place from mid-January to late March. We will inform you of our admissions decision within two weeks of your interview.

Financial Aid

Information about our financial aid policies, process, forms, and deadlines may be found here. An application for financial aid does not in any way affect a candidate’s application for admission.

Letters of Reference

We strive to consider our applicants as holistically as possible. Recommendations are a crucial part of this process. We want to hear from individuals who know you well and who can offer a view into your academic qualifications, intellectual capacities, personal qualities, Jewish background and/or spiritual journey. Please ask at least one rabbi to write on your behalf.

To submit a letter of reference electronically, please send this online form to the people writing on your behalf. A printable form may also be downloaded here, and mailed to the Rabbinical School Office of Admissions.

Application Essays

Your responses to the application essay questions allow us to get to know you as an individual, a student, a Jew, and a future rabbi. In addition, these essays give you an opportunity to articulate your views on a variety of topics in a relaxed manner. We want you to be yourself and honest in your essays.

Essay I. Please answer questions 1, 2 and 3 in no more than 1500-2000 words total, for all three section combined.

1. Why have you chosen to apply to become a rabbi? Discuss your intellectual, personal and spiritual development as well as life experiences, specific events and significant relationships that have led you to make this decision. Please include in this personal statement reflections on the following:

a. Your conception of and relationship with God
b. The evolution of your current Jewish practice
c. Your relationship to the Jewish people and Jewish history, including your relationship with Israel

2. What do you find most compelling and most challenging about training for the rabbinate in a pluralistic context?

3. As you imagine yourself both in rabbinical school and as a future rabbi, what are the strengths, weaknesses and fears that you bring with you?

Essay II. Please answer the following question in 1500 words or less:

Reflect on a Torah passage that you have found meaningful or challenging. You may include classical and contemporary commentaries that have been helpful to you in understanding the text.

At Hebrew College, we never want finances to stand in the way of you attending our school and becoming a rabbi. We offer our students several forms of financial support to help you through our program and have a dedicated team to help you navigate the path to ordination and beyond.


Need-Based Financial Aid

Each year, we dedicate significant institutional resources to providing need-based financial aid. Most of our students who apply for financial aid receive need-based aid, and many students receive aid at our highest level. You can find the Hebrew College Financial Aid Application and more specific instructions for applying for financial aid here.


Merit Fellowships

The Rabbinical School awards numerous multi-year Merit Fellowships to incoming students each year. Awards are made based on academic achievement, leadership potential and demonstrated commitment to the core values of the rabbinical program. All accepted students who apply for need based financial aid are considered for Merit Fellowships. No additional application is required.

>> LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR MERIT FELLOWSHIPS


Student Loans

As an accredited institution of higher learning, Hebrew College can facilitate your applying for federal student loans to help finance your rabbinic education. We will work with you to minimize student loans and help you navigate the various repayment options upon ordination.


Employment Support

Many of our students work part time throughout rabbinical school. This helps them both gain valuable professional experience as well as augment their financial resources. Hebrew College has long-standing relationships with many Jewish institutions in the Greater Boston area that regularly hire our students for various positions. As a College, we also have many great opportunities for part-time work which help prepare you for a career as a rabbi, including teaching in our community learning and youth education programs.

Our full time Director of Professional Development and Job Placement regularly sends out job announcements and works with every student to help them clarify their rabbinic vision and find employment opportunities suited to them.


Additional Funding Sources

We encourage students to seek additional funding sources outside of Hebrew College and will offer support as you navigate funding opportunities. Check out these outside scholarships, additional loan sources, and research tools.


4-Year Advanced Track

In our program, as our guiding principles state, students “learn to ground themselves in the faithful creativity of the beit midrash, to deepen their relationship with the Divine, and to walk in the ways of Torah, as they prepare for a life of service to the Jewish people and to the world.”

Applicants who are advanced in these areas, and have significant capacity to study Tanakh, Talmud, and Halakha in the original language, as well as rich past experience immersing in Jewish life and living, may be able to start in Shanah Bet and complete the program in four years. Advanced placement is determined as part of the regular application process.

FAQs

The first thing is to contact Rabbi Gita Karasov, Director of Admissions, to arrange a time to speak. We also recommend you visit campus when classes are in session. This is one of the best ways to get a sense of whether or not Hebrew College is a good fit for you. We hold prospective-student events every semester. If you are not able to attend one of these, Rabbi Karasov can arrange another time for you to visit, sit in on classes and meet with students and faculty.

The Rabbinical School of Hebrew College looks for students who have an unquenchable thirst to learn from the wisdom of Jewish tradition; a drive to fashion an authentic personal relationship to Judaism; a passion to engage with people, practices and ideas from across the Jewish spectrum; and a commitment to serve the Jewish people.

After you spend time getting to know us and you want to apply, you can do so through our online application.

The learning and preparation you do prior to rabbinical school is an essential part of your path to the rabbinate. It is a time to deepen your Jewish knowledge and practice. We expect our students to be in an ever-deepening relationship with the core aspects of Jewish life:

  • Ahavat Hashem: Engaging God, theology and Jewish practice
  • Ahavat Torah: Engaging Torah study
  • Ahavat Israel: Engaging the Jewish people and culture in North America, Israel and around the world

If you are thinking of applying, ask yourself how you can grow. How can you deepen your relationship to God and prayer, Torah study and the Jewish people? One practical suggestion we offer is to let the Jewish calendar be your guide. Live the rhythms of Judaism, learning about and observing each holiday as they arise in the calendar. Be shomer Shabbat, broadly understood, by making Shabbat a significant part of your life. Study the parashah on a weekly basis, perhaps looking at commentaries to help you find more meaning. The key is to progress on your path of religious and spiritual growth.

Our innovative thematic curriculum combines the best elements of the university and the yeshiva, enabling students to examine the sources of Judaism both in historical context and from a personal religious perspective. Students explore questions of critical scholarship as well as those of meaning and relevance. Academic courses are supplemented by intensive daily preparation in the Beit Midrash, where students spend time in intensive hevruta study with faculty supervision.

The core curriculum is built around the two most famous cycles of traditional Jewish learning: Parshiyyot ha-Torah and Seder ha-SHaS. The Jewish Living Core follows the order of hamishah humshei Torah and, with some adaptation, the order of subjects in the Babylonian Talmud, covering the major areas of Jewish learning central to a text-based rabbinic education.

Torah study, including a range of commentaries from ancient Midrash to contemporary literary analysis, links the five books of the Torah to the five-year course of study. Talmud study, covering tractates from five of the six orders of the Mishnah, is linked to a parallel study of halakhah. Students in Shanah Aleph (Year 1) study tractate Berakhot, the first tractate of the Talmud. Shanah Bet ( Year 2), Gimel (Year 3) and Dalet Year 4) move together through a cycle of the orders Mo’ed, Nashim and Nezikin, where Talmud and halakhah classes are grouped by level from multiple class cohorts. Shanah Heh (Year 5) presents the opportunity for an advanced Talmud elective.

Several other courses are offered each year that relate to the theme of a Jewish Living Core course, including Jewish thought classes, offering an integrated, thematic curriculum. These, too, may require Beit Midrash preparation. Students also have a series of professional-development courses, culminating in the final two years of the program, when they can specialize in an area of Jewish learning or professional rabbinic development.

As a pluralistic school, we do not have prescriptions for how you should live as a Jew. Rather, we support each other in a search for an honest and authentic engagement with Jewish tradition. We have chosen to put engagement with sacred text as a core part of this journey. Students spend much of their time in the Beit Midrash with a hevruta (study partner), learning classical and modern texts. Our aim is to learn the text in context and on its own terms as well as ask questions of personal meaning and relevance.

For example, in a class on hilchot Shabbat (laws of Shabbat) students learn about classical concepts of Shabbat in the Torah and Talmud and the codification of practices in “halachic” codes. We then ask questions about how to engage with these forms today. Sitting at the table will be people who practice a traditional conception of Shmirat Shabbat as well as those with a liberal understanding of how to keep Shabbat. The class becomes an opportunity to encounter different approaches to Jewish tradition and seek out our own place in it as we also support and challenge classmates to do the same.

Our graduates serve as congregational rabbis in affiliated Conservative, Reconstructionist and Reform congregations as well as independent congregations. They also work as Hillel rabbis and executive directors, hospital chaplains and organizational innovators in institutions across the country. We have had extraordinary success with placement; fully 95 percent of our more than 125 graduates are working as rabbis. Our graduates are spread across the country and in Israel, Canada and South America.

Our Director of Placement works with students and graduates to help them prepare for and find the rabbinic position that is right for each of them.

Hebrew College is blessed to have incredibly talented and learned faculty members who consider rabbinic education their primary work. They are available in and out of class to help you grow as a person and a rabbi. All students are assigned a faculty adviser to assist in navigating the various challenges of being a rabbinical student. During required internships in Shanah Dalet and Shanah Heh, students have mentors in their place of employment who meet with them regularly to reflect on their work and develop plans for growth. In addition to these formal programs, organic, informal student-teacher mentoring relationships often emerge as students are drawn to one or more faculty members who serve as resources for questions and support.

Gaining practical rabbinic training and experience is an essential component of your education here. You will graduate from Hebrew College prepared for the varied responsibilities of being a rabbi.

Practical Training. You will take classes on rabbinic leadership, pastoral counseling, life-cycle events, homiletics and prayer-leading skills throughout the program.

Supervised Internships. During the final two years of the program, you will have supervised, paid internships in local Jewish institutions that provide you with an opportunity to gain valuable work experience. Hebrew College has developed partnerships with many leading Boston congregations from across the religious spectrum, as well as Hillels, day schools and other innovative Jewish organizations. These partner organizations offer internships each year to our students.

Professional Specialization. You can gain greater expertise in specific areas, choosing from our specialization tracks:

  • Certificate in Pastoral Care
  • Spirituality and Social Justice Leadership
  • Jewish Education (earning a master’s degree)
  • Interreligious Leadership (in conjunction with BTI)

Developing into a rabbi requires far more than the acquisition of knowledge. We believe students must grow holistically, including cultivating the life of the spirit. We offer the following extra-curricular opportunities to support this growth at no additional charge to students.

  • Ikvotecha (Spiritual Direction). During monthly meetings with their mashpia (spiritual director), students reflect on their spiritual life, personal theology and religious practice through conversation, meditation, written reflection and artistic expression. Spiritual Direction helps students cultivate a stance of openness to the fullness of life, deeper awareness of moments of holiness and greater ability to be in silence and offer spontaneous prayer.
  • Clinical Pastoral Education. Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is an intensive interfaith professional-education program for current and future clergy. In CPE, completed either full-time during the summer or part-time during the academic year, students engage in supervised encounters with persons in crisis. Through these experiences and the feedback from peers and teachers, students develop new awareness of themselves as persons and of the needs of those with whom they work.

We begin each morning with spirited communal tefillah (prayer) in the Beit Midrash. In this tranquil space, we have created a dynamic and meaningful prayer community in which we welcome and encourage engagement with traditional Jewish liturgy and prayer forms as well as experimentation and creativity. Some mornings, our shacharit (morning prayer service) involves a full, traditional liturgy. Other mornings, it is a more contemplative experience with meditation and chanting. Students are expected to attend morning tefillah at least two days per week. On Thursdays, we pray as a rabbinical school community. At least one other day a week, students pray in smaller groups which are created based on common interests. To help learn liturgy and tefillah-leading skills, Mekorot and Shanah Aleph students are expected to attend Friday morning minyan as well.

Your placement is determined largely based on your knowledge of Hebrew. Applicants who studied two years of college-level Hebrew generally are ready for Mekorot, while those with three years of college-level Hebrew tend to start in Shanah Aleph. Your experience in studying sacred text in the original, as well as your general Jewish knowledge and background, are also a factor. Those with significant experience learning sacred text and life experience in Jewish contexts are more likely to be ready for Shanah Aleph. We will determine your placement based on your background and a series of written and oral Hebrew and text reading assessments, as appropriate, during the application process.

Hebrew College does not have on-campus housing. Our students live in the in cities and towns throughout Greater Boston, home to one of the most robust, learned and active Jewish communities in the world. The most popular of these are Newton, Brookline, Cambridge/Somerville, and the Jamaica Plain section of Boston. Newton, our host city, is a safe and welcoming community teeming with restaurants, shops, and public transportation. Brookline is the center of Jewish Boston. It is an urban area with kosher and non-kosher restaurants as well as more than 10 synagogues and places to pray on Shabbat. Cambridge, Somerville and Jamaica Plain have great urban feels and active and progressive Jewish communities.

Hebrew College has a welcoming, celebratory and caring culture that includes our celebration of Shabbat. Mainly through informal student and faculty efforts, we help each other have a full Shabbat experience. Our students often share Shabbat meals and attend Shabbat tefillot together.  For many students, Shabbat is also a time that they have obligations to teach and lead services.

We recognize that, for many, rabbinical school is an extraordinary financial commitment. We do as much as we can to support you. In general, students pay for their education through need-based financial aid from Hebrew College, working part-time and taking out student loans. We also award up to eight merit fellowships each year. You can read more about how to pay for rabbinical school here.

Contact Admissions

Rabbi Gita Karasov
Director of Admissions and Student Life
gkarasov@hebrewcollege.edu